Source: Dengeki Online
Images are taken from the source article. Copyright belongs to their respective owners.
Producer Eshiro Motohide: Got into game development as a programmer, and becoming a director, he now works as a producer. He has been a producer on the Gyakuten series since Gyakuten Saiban 2 (Ace Attorney 2 - Justice for All) on DS.
Producer Terasawa Yoshinori: A key person the franchise who presented Danganronpa to the company. Involved with various titles like Samurai Dō (Way of the Samurai), Gachitora! And Conception.
Mr. Terasawa Didn’t Like Capcom!? Behind The Shocking First Meeting Of The Two
Interviewer: I heard the two of you are quite close actually. Where did you first meet each other?
Terasawa: Oh, you know, we got attracted to each other (laugh).
Eshiro: Hahahaha. But you’re half right. I knew about Danganronpa, but hadn’t played it. But Yamazaki* in my company recommended it strongly to me, said I had to play it, so I played Danganronpa 1・2 Reload on the PS Vita. It was really stimulating!
* Yamazaki Takeshi. Has been involved with the Gyakuten series since Gyakuten Saiban Yomigaeru Gyakuten (Ace Attorney 1 DS) on the DS. Director of the Gyakuten Kenji (Ace Attorney Investigations) series.
Interviewer: I see. It was actually us here at Dengeki Online who recommended Danganronpa to Mr. Yamazaki.
Eshiro: Yeah, I knew about that (laugh). I was really impressed when I had finished the games and it was only then that I learned that the person I had lead the planning team of Gyakuten Saiban 6 (Ace Attorney 6 - Spirit of Justice) had in fact worked at Spike-Chunsoft.
Terasawa: Daigo, right?
Eshiro: Yes, Daigo Yoriki*. I asked him to arrange for the Gyakuten Saiban and the Danganronpa teams to have a drink together.
* Daigo Yoriki. Worked on planning for Gyakuten Kenji 2 (‘Turnabout Prosecutor 2’), Gyakuten Saiban 5 (Ace Attorney 5 - Dual Destinies) and Gyakuten Saiban 6.
Terasawa: I never met Daigo in person myself, but I got the message that the producer of Gyakuten Saiban wanted to have a drink with us, so I went to ask Saitō* and Kodaka*.
* Saitō Yūichirō. Line producer at Spike-Chunsoft. Worked on Danganronpa, Conception and Exist Archive among others.
* Kodaka Kazutaka. Works on planning and scenario at Spike-Chunsoft. Major works are Meitantei Conan & Kindaichi Shōnen no Jikenbo – Meguriau Futari no Meitantei (‘Detective Conan & The Young Kindaichi Case Files - The Chanceful Meeting of the Two Great Detectives’) and the Danganronpa series.
Interviewer: When did this happen?
Eshiro: After I played 1・2 Reload, so near the end of 2013.
Terasawa: It might seem we’ve known each other for a long time, but we really haven’t. But we have a short, but thick relation.
Eshiro: This is the guy I’ve drunk most with the last few years. The first time we met, there were the four of us from Capcom: me, Yamazaki, Daigo and assistant producer Hama and we’re standing in line to wait for our private room.
Interviewer: What did you think of the Danganronpa team?
Eshiro: It was like meeting with the enemy team on an away game! It’s like they had a barrier set up around them. ‘We’ll show you who’s boss here!’ (laugh).
Interviewer: Like they had a Psyche Lock.
Eshiro: I’m not joking, it was really unbelievable. I’d guess they had about ten Psyche Locks.
Terasawa: There were probably that many of them (laugh).
Eshiro: They sat there from the back, Terasawa, Mr. Saitō and Mr. Kodaka, and once the meal started… It really went nowhere, and at the start, we were like probing each other.
Terasawa: I remember saying we’d go home after drinking for about an hour (laugh).
Interviewer: Can you leave early during a joint dinner?
Eshiro: I’m not joking here. The atmosphere was really like that. But after an hour or so had passed, Terasawa and I started to get a more lively discussion, because we’re close in age.
Interviewer: Did you talk a lot about game development then? Or about yourselves?
Terasawa: Both, but I don’t remember talking that much about games.
Eshiro; Terasawa told about how his hobby was tennis, and I talked about what I did before entering Capcom. At the end, things got more fun, so we went to a second place immediately after that (laugh).
Terasawa: I was teasing Eshiro here a lot, you’d never know it was our first meeting. I think I might’ve been attracted by how kind he was then.
Eshiro: Oh yeah, I heard about this back then, but it appears Mr. Kodaka and I almost had an near encounter for a certain title.
Terasawa: That was probably when he was still young and working on scenarios.
Eshiro: I was quite surprised. At the after-party, we learned we both knew the same producer of a certain company, so we went out for a drink with the three of us later. That has now become something like an annual thing.
Terasawa: We don’t talk about anything interesting, but we don’t really talk about our jobs. But we just get along. So we went out drinking, adding people each time and now we’re here.
Eshiro: I often go out for a drink with Tsujimoto* from my company. When I told him I also went out drinking with Terasawa from Spike-Chunsoft, he asked me if I could introduce him, so I arranged a meeting. And then those two went out drinking without me, and before I knew it, they were even golfing together!
* Tsujimoto Ryōzō. Capcom executive, head of CS Third Development Studio Managing. Producer of the Monster Hunter series.
Terasawa: Hahahahaha. Yeah, I go out drinking with Mr. Tsujimoto whenever he’s here.
Interviewer: Why were you on your guards anyway when you first met with the people from Capcom?
Terasawa: They have a lot of titles, many of them very popular. We’re just a medium-sized software maker, so to put in clearly: we were envious of that large software maker with a long history (laugh).
Eshiro: He told me right away when we first met. ‘I don’t really like Capcom.’ (laugh).
Terasawa: I actually do love Capcom! But I couldn’t express my true feelings, so I acted a bit difficult about that, but it were Eshiro and Mr. Tsujimoto who worked hard to pull us in. I was really happy.
Eshiro: Once alcohol gets involved, people and the way they think become a lot clearer. I could sympathize with what I saw at that moment. The Psyche Locks I had seen at the start had been broken after one hour. We all laughed loudly then.
How To Deal With Risky Ideas Depends On The Producer’s Abilities
Interviewer: Could you tell us what you think about the other’s titles?
Terasawa: While they were making Onimusha, I was working on Samurai Dō. And when they were working on the recent Gyakuten Saiban titles, I was working on Danganronpa. So I always thought: ‘It must be good to have a budget like that~’ (laugh).
* Image is from Samurai Dō Portable (PSP)
Eshiro: Everytime we met, he complained to me how we used our development budget like it was just warm water (laugh).
Terasawa: Pushing out commercials with tarento …. How great it must be~ (laugh). Oh, and with Onimusha they had a fixed camera so they could present great screen compositions, so I thought: ‘Fixed cameras! We have a camera you can move at will! But it does look good fixed like that….’
Interviewer: So you actually really looked up to then!?
Terasawa: I’m always jealous of them (laugh). As for Gyakuten Saiban, I was impressed how there were all kinds of developments as the series went on, and while sometimes sales and reviews drop a bit when a series goes on and on, they really develop these games thinking of the users. And I also have an image of Capcom of releasing a budget version of the games at just the right timing.
Eshiro: What really surprised me when I played Danganronpa was the world. All kinds of dirty jokes come flying at you, right? And then there’s Mr. Kodaka’s unique sense of pace, the idea behind Monokuma’s character, and the black comedy, all things we can’t do with the Gyakuten Saiban series, no, it’s really packed with elements you can’t see elsewhere. That is what makes the games fun and that really impressed me.
Terasawa: Kodaka is really a unique genius, that’s why text like that comes out of him. I always mention this, but I think Monokuma is a hidden personality inside him. He has other personalities too.
Eshiro: It’s amazing how close to the edge he gets. I love how even his dirty jokes aren’t the usual ones.
Terasawa: But once he’s ready with the text and we have the women in our team go over it, I always get reports that he goes so far they draw the line there. I leave it up to Kodaka to decide whether he’ll change the lines or not. I only change things when his stolen ideas go too far.
Eshiro: You do have a lot of homages (laugh).
Terasawa: I have to decide whether something is just safe, or out. But on grey matters, even if it’s almost black, I say it’s safe (laugh). So even if I say it’s okay, outside companies or hardware companies may have something to comment on that.
Eshiro: But you do a great job at drawing the line. Kodaka probably aims for that. He reaches people who are into sub-cultures and things like that.
Interviewer: Both series have developed in various ways, like merchandise.
Eshiro: I think I saw apparel goods being sold in Harajuku. You can’t do that with the Gyakuten series. It’s not like we have no similarities, but the target audience of both series are slightly different. But there are of course people who love both series.
Terasawa: There are of course fans who love both series. Both titles have a similar play-flow of investigating, collecting evidence and deducing.
Eshiro: The music of Danganronpa, and the atmosphere in the promotion videos is rather pop and very cool. That of Gyakuten Saiban is a lot conventional.
Terasawa: I suppose that with Gyakuten Saiban, you don’t really think about stylish images, but go for the traditional way?
Eshiro: Yes. If we were going for stylish, prosecutor Auchi (Payne) would never appear!
Eshiro: Takumi* really respects classic mystery fiction. I heard Mr. Kodaka loves taking videos for films, so they each have their way of presentation and vision.
* Takumi Shū. Father of the Gyakuten Saiban series. He was not only responsible for the scenario and direction, but also provided the first voice of Naruhodō Ryūichi (Phoenix Wright).
A Trusting Relation With The Development Team Is Important For A Producer
Interviewer: Unique characters appear in both Gyakuten Saiban and Danganronpa. Are there things you ask of the development team when they create these characters?
Eshiro: I always think of what the users will expect when a character appears in the world of Gyakuten Saiban. I don’t really say I want to see them do this or that. Once I have a report from the director about what kind of story he has and what kind of character he wants, I think about it how the users will look at it. Whether they get excited by this character or their background. I don’t see it, I ask the team what the design is behind the character.
Terasawa: I think my stance on this is similar. I’m not a type to throw a clear message of ‘I want to do this.” at the team. At the core, I believe a game becomes the best if the development team can make what it wants to make. I only judge whether the game doesn’t get too off-rails from certain standards. So I never tell them to create a certain character. I only judge the characters Kodaka and Komatsuzaki* come up with. When we made 1, I did comment slightly on the balance of the characters, but I have hardly said anything about the characters since 2.
* Komatsuzaki Rui. Characters designer of the Danganronpa series. Planned Danganronpa together with Kodaka. The title of the game was an idea of Komatsuzaki's.
Eshiro: I made the most comments during Gyakuten Kenji (Ace Attorney Investigations). Some designs overlapped with earlier ideas and characters, so that was no fun. When something isn’t shocking, or not fun, I’ll have them do it over again and again. But we didn’t have something like with Gyakuten Saiban 6. I only had them change main character designs we used for the marketing campaign.
Terasawa: Gyakuten Saiban has a lot of characters which are easy to understandwith just a look. I think it’s good to have characters that are good at conveying what kind of character they are. And once you add a gap with their image, they become even more fun, so it’s really important to think about what kind of character you’re making. Developers of course make note of that whenever they make a game, but there are times when it doesn’t go as planned. With Danganronpa, we actually didn’t managed to foretell who would be popular or not. ‘Can you believe this character is so popular!?’ or ‘Eh? This one is not popular?’
Interviewer: Could you tell us which characters that are?
Terasawa: I myself thought that Tanaka Gandamu would be popular, but I had not expected at all that Yamada Hifumi or Nidai Nekomaru would be that popular. We all had different ideas about that in the team, so we’re always looking forward to the release. I loved Asahina Aoi from 1, but she’s not that popular. Users even said it was gross how much an Asahina fan I was.
Terasawa: So there I thought: ‘Oh…so it was my fault… I should stop rooting too much for my characters…’ (laugh)
Interviewer: About the gap you mentioned just now, I have the feeling that sergeant Sanagi (sergeant Buff) was made with that in mind.
Eshiro: I hardly checked the design of Sanagi. Main characters are used in the marketing, so I check them in detail, but I don’t look that closely at the other characters. Of course, I had heard about the thing with the radio-controlled helicopter, but I had not really heard about what’d happen next.
Terasawa: Talking about gaps, there’s that moment where Mayoi (Maya Fey) channels “a certain person” in Gyakuten Saiban 6, right? It was a bit gross, so I’d like to hear why that happened.
Eshiro: Hahahaha, when I played that part, I also thought: ‘Isn’t this going too far?’, but it followed the rules of Kurain Channeling Technique, where everything besides the hair on the head changes in the form of the deceased. But of course, I was worried fans might become angry.
Terasawa: I was expecting something “exciting” when she’d turn back, but I was surprised when that didn’t come (laugh).
Eshiro: There was no way that would happen (laugh)! I was expecting some public outrage about this after the release, but the users who came to the stage play of Gyakuten Saiban said it was fun. There are probably also people who didn’t like it, but I saw very few people who said that. Most of them were impressed we went this far.
Terasawa: Giving it the go or no is the job of a producer. A different producer might have given it a no-go.
Eshiro: We already talked about this, but sometimes they ask me to check a design that’s almost finished, and when I tell them it’s not good and that they have to redo it, they’d reply: ‘Fine with me, but I need more time to redo this.’ They take the schedule hostage like that (laugh).
Terasawa: At my place they come when it’s impossible to change the schedule anymore, declaring they won’t redo it now. It’s almost a crime. And what really is a bother is when they do things behind your back.
Interviewer: Behind your back?
Terasawa: Hiding something risqué. I’d see the final test playthrough and be surprised by that. But depending on what it is, I do have them redo it (wry smile). There’s been nothing fatal until now, but there were several ideas that were really on the edge. Things you really wanted to have heard earlier about.
Eshiro: That’s the relation between producers and directors. How are they going to tackle development…. There are even times when the director comes to commit a crime (laugh).
Terasawa: Hahahaha. But sometimes, it’s really great, so it’s hard making the call.
Eshiro: But you can’t fight back too much. It has effect on the motivation on the development floor, so I aim at a perfect balance.
How To Change Things While Keeping Alive What The Development Team Is Aiming For
Interviewer: What do you keep in mind whenever you work on your titles?
Terasawa: I already mentioned this, but first of all, I want to prepare an environment where the development team can make what they want. There is no one answer in our job. When you have choices, it’s ever clear which answer is right, and which answer is wrong. There’s also each individual’s own feelings and interests. I have the team make their own choices as much as possible, and as long it’s not too off-track, I’ll respect their choices.
Eshiro: You’re really nice to them.
Terasawa: There are times when it’s a success, and times when it isn’t. When I think it’s obviously wrong, I’ll of course explain that and have them change it. But if not, I’ll have the team make their own choices. So whenever they do fail, I blame myself for not having made my own opinions clear to the team. When I didn’t tell them to do something, it means I myself didn’t have confidence in that idea. It’s looking back at the past. Because I didn’t tell them what I thought at the time, the game didn’t sell and that’s the responsibility of me, the producer.
Eshiro: You all had your own tasks to think off, and it’s at such a moment you didn’t come up with an answer.
Terasawa: When someone is in doubt and asks me a question, I think of what the users like and don’t and make my judgment based on that. But in other cases, when the development team tells it’s absolutely going to be fun, I do everything to support. That’s my managing style.
Eshiro: I tell them to be aware of their final destination when making a game. Also, even if the development team thinks it’s funny, if they don’t manage to convey that in some manner to me, it’s unlikely the users will understand it. We sometimes fight about that, but we need to make games that satisfies the users that pay money for them. So with that in mind, I hardly make any detailed instructions on what they decide on on the development floor unless it isn’t conveyed well. We all think together about how to convey something that isn’t working right now, or I have the team think it all over once more.
Interviewer: Do you have arguments with the development teams?
Eshiro: We talk things over all the way through. When you have an argument, you really get to see what someone is trying to do, what kind of game they want to make as you talk things through. As long they have a good sight on the core fundamentals, you always get a good answer. But when the core isn’t set yet, or still out-of-focus, the answer becomes vague. So we talk things over, and if the other person isn’t wrong, I myself will think things over. If the other person is wrong, I will point that out and have them try it again.
Terasawa: Do you get angry?
Eshiro: I have raised my voice. Some developers can’t take that, so there are people who don’t get along with my style. Yamazaki is a nice guy, but he doesn’t bend when it comes to game development, so we often crash into each other (laugh).
Terasawa; But you can do that because you have a team that trusts you and vice-versa with whom you’ve made a series. I have a method for the Danganronpa team, but the reaction of outside development teams is completely different. Sometimes I’ll say what I’m thinking, sometimes I respect the development floor’s ideas.
Eshiro: If you go yell at someone you work with for the first time, they’ll think you’re a difficult person, right? (laugh) But I’ll of course listen carefully then, and change the way I present it. TPO (Time, place, occasion).
Terasawa: And thinking of the users comes from the fact you have a series with a history. In the case of a series, you know who is buying the games, so there is meaning behind considering how to approach them. But you can’t make anything with the first game of an original title. So basically, that’s really just made based on the egos of the creators. Of course, I tell them to think it over first, and then make something they think is interesting.
Eshiro: I haven’t really worked on any original titles. Gyakuten Kenji is part of the Gyakuten franchise, and DmC Devil May Cry was only made because we had the world of Devil May Cry. Among the few original titles I worked on, the one that left the most impression was Shadow of Rome, with Mr. Inafune* producing and me directing it.
* Inafune Keiji. Producer who worked in various titles at Capcom. Works on various titles at comcept.
Interviewer: Did you get along well with your producer?
Eshiro: We only had fights (laugh)
Terasawa: Hahahaha. But there is meaning behind the fact you once did that, and now do this job.
Mr. Terasawa and Mr. Kodaka showed the audience a mail discussion at CEDEC 2011. Did you always have discussions like that?
Terasawa: A subordinate of mine was producing the DS title Bakusō Decotora Densetsu BLACK (‘Roaring Race Decotora Legend BLACK’), but the scenario we ordered from a third party was not really great. So I had Kodaka rewrite it, and it was really impressive how much it was improved. So there I got the idea in me that Kodaka could write something interesting. Some time after time, he came to me with the original concept of Danganronpa. I loved the world and the concept, and I believed that with Kodaka, the scenario could really become something, so I arranged things so we could make it.
Interviewer: Meitantei Conan & Kindaichi Shōnen no Jikenbo: Meguriau Futari no Meitantei was after Bakusō Decotora Densetsu BLACK, right?
Terasawa: Yes. To be honest, I didn’t play Meitantei Conan & Kindaichi Shōnen no Jikenbo: Meguriau Futari no Meitantei at release. I only played it after we started development on Danganronpa. But it was really great, so my trust in Kodaka changed into conviction then. There are games based on IP that are made without a lot of effort, but the scenario of this game was outstanding, and I really enjoyed it, so I hope fans of Kodaka will try I out. It might be hard finding it now though….
Interviewer: It’s a famous title that managed to successfully clear a challenge theme.
Terasawa: I think that Capcom is one of the few large companies that still takes on all kinds of challenges. I hope they will try on new challenges in the future too.
Eshiro: I think that Biohazard 7 (Resident Evil 7) is a challenge in a way. We have lot of IP at Capcom, so we always look for ways to make use of them. If you don’t use an IP, you’re only killing them.
Terasawa: If you raise the budget to meet expectations, the risk also grows, so that’s a difficult choice. There are of course also challenges when continuing with a series, but I’d also love brand new ideas. If not, it’ll became even more difficult for this industry.
Eshiro: I already mentioned it, but Terasawa also complains to me. ‘You spend too much on adventure games!’ (laugh).
Terasawa: Hahahaha. I do say that, but I do think it’s important to release games with a sizeable budget. It’s the same with films. It’s only because there are the classic AAA films, you can have films that are more quirky. You can only have a market if there’s choice. If the numbers fall, the future will be difficult.
For: 6 Against: 4 Is A No-Go. A Comment About Harsh Reception From A Producer’s POV
Terasawa: From what we talked about just now, the readers might think it’s easier to work on a series because you have a clear view on who the users are, but it’s actually not like that.
Eshiro: Precisely. Fans have their own ideas, and it’s difficult to satisfy all of them. We make the games trying to satisfy as many fans as possible, but there will definitely people who will be dissatisfied.
Terasawa: With an election, you win if you have six votes for and four against, but it doesn’t work like that in business. The negative opinions of four will become much more than that, and the six supporting opinions will lose against them. In terms of statistics, 60% might look good, but in terms of real reception, especially reception on the internet, you’re in the minus. And this is just my feeling, but I think you are about even with 7:3. But it’s hard getting there.
Eshiro: There’s a bad trend of people not having played the games recently, but just seeing bad reviews on the internet and thus spreading that bad reception further.
Interviewer: With series, you’ll always have people who think a series should be certain way, right?
Eshiro: It’s natural that all fans have their own thoughts and feelings about a series. You have the same with films and drama series, when they do something new they had never done before in the series and you think ‘No, this is wrong.’ If the gap with the image of fans like that widens, they’ll attack you, and if it fits their image, it’ll be called a masterpiece. And nowadays, reception both here in Japan and abroad differs, so that makes things even more difficult.
Interviewer: Do you keep the audience abroad in mind when making Gyakuten Saiban?
Eshiro: The contents of the games are developed without thinking of how it’ll work abroad. But there are still people abroad who support us. Core users both in the West and Asia always passionately come after us.
Interviewer: I heard there are a lot of cosplayers in places like Comic-Con in the US.
Eshiro: This year we went to Anime Expo in Los Angeles for the first time and held a panel discussion there. We were scheduled to start at nine in the morning, in a hall big enough for 700 people, so we thought nobody would come here so early, but 90% of the seats were taken. I was really touched by that.
Terasawa: The fans abroad are really amazing. When the anime was being broadcast, most of the replies sent to Kodaka’s Twitter whenever a character died came from abroad. Not only in English, which we can read, but also in scripts we couldn’t read.
Eshiro: That proves that those characters are constructed well, with a good backbone to them. I also think that because many of the characters are young, many can sympathize with them.
Takezawa: I think life is about how much you can absorb and take with you in your life. I think that lately, there are more people who look for a conclusion right away, who want to be told everything, and who can’t take open, not clearly defined endings. Our generation let our imagination work starting with that vagueness, and come up with our own interpretations and have fun with finding a way, any way, of making sense of it, but nowadays you have internet and it takes just moments to find some kind of answer there, whether it’s correct or false. Our generation didn’t have that, so we have the habit of thinking deeply about what it all could’ve meant. We had to do that, so we see not clearly defined endings as a form of entertainment on its own. Perhaps this way of thinking is old. No, I won’t believe that’s true! (laugh). I will without hesitation continue leaving people with vague feelings.
Eshiro: I agree with you. I think it’d be good if people would discuss these things with communities with different opinions, and so get to know new people. When we entered the industry, it was normal for a game to have no story. Oh, and lately, I think indies are going strong. I feel like they go to battle with something they created they believe is fun. There are a lot of original titles, and it’s very stimulating.
Interviewer: Was there something that has influenced you as a producer?
Eshiro: For me, it was my producer Mr. Inafune, when I was working as a director. He was the one who showed me how to do my work as a producer, how to promote a game, how to think of a schedule, how to think of the costs, and how to sell games. On the other hand, he also didn’t explain the goal behind the marketing to the development team, so we didn’t understand what he was aiming for. That is why I now tell the people on the development floor what my intents are, how I want to do it and ask them to help me with that.
Interviewer: I see.
Eshiro: And in terms of collaboration projects, I’d say that Mr. Nagoshi* of the Ryū ga Gotoku (Yakuza) series is amazing. I don’t think I could ever come up with that number of collaborations. I remember that Danganronpa had an exhibition on the first floor of Shinjuku Marui One. I went there, you know. We couldn’t that with the Gyakuten Saiban, so I was really jealous. On the way back I kept saying how cool it’d be.
* Nagoshi Toshihiro. Chief Creative Officer, member of the board of directors of SEGA.
Terasawa: That was something we did before the anime, but since then, we started working on something like the anime.
Does Their Sense Match The Era? About Gaming Sense.
Interviewer: What games have you lately played?
Eshiro: I have stopped with it now, but there was a time I was really into Destiny. I was secretly in a clan too, and I still have players added to my friend list from when we did co-op play (laugh).
Terasawa: I played a lot of games, but I always get dizzy from 3D FPS games. Spike-Chunsoft also localizes games from abroad, and there are some really interesting games, but I can’t play them.
Eshiro: The Witcher 3 - Wild Hunt was good. Was it hard localizing that title?
Terasawa: Honma, who was in charge of that, went for three months to Poland to work together with the people from CD Project Red. They only managed to do such a great job because he even kept on mailing with them after he had returned.
* Localization producer Honma Satoru. Owner of the only T-Shirt in existence that says “The Man In This World Who First Completed Witcher 3”. Also worked on titles like Divinity Original Sin Enhanced Edition.
Eshiro: You really have to go as far as that, I think. You don’t just translate everything to Japanese, you really need to help create the world. Only by going so far, you can have the Japanese users get in the game. It’s about balancing the schedule and costs.
Terasawa: And the rest is how much the person responsible for the project pours into it. Honma is the type who works on games he himself likes, like Terraria and Crypt of the NecroDancer. By the way, the reviews of Crypt of the NecroDancer on iOS are great.
Eshiro: You can’t work as a game producer if you can’t tell whether your game is fun or not.
Terasawa: Everyone has their own ideas about what is fun or not. But there’s the question of whether what that person thinks is fun will sell or not. Someone who enjoys things that don’t sell, isn’t suited to be a producer. There’s nothing wrong with them, but it’d be very hard for them. But you can only comment on something like this in hindsight. I think that people with interests that fit with the times are better fit to be a producer than even someone with some special ability. And yes, they might not do as well if the times change. But there’s also a bit of luck involved.
Eshiro: I think it’s important to be receptive, not just to games. Can you react to even the smallest events? It’s really great to be able to work with something you love. You can combine your hobby with productivity. When I can’t get impressed by anime or games, when I don’t know what’s fun anymore, that’s when I will leave this industry, I think.
Terasawa: Honing your instincts is for a part your own sense, for a part study.
Eshiro: I think it’d be hard to be working on creative content thinking it’s just a job. I’d be amazed if there are people who think like that but still churn out hit after hit (laugh).
Terasawa: For example, an old guy from another industry might be able to create one hit, but it’d be difficult for them to create one hit after another. It’s best to do this when you’re still young.
Impressive Mystery Games? The Roots Of Danganronpa Revealed!?
Interviewer: Are there mystery games or series that left an impression on you?
Terasawa: Mikagura Shōjo Tantei Dan (‘The Mikagura Girls Detective Club’). In my eyes, the roots of Gyakuten Saiban and Danganronpa lie there. When this game was released, I was working with Human. I had never seen a game mechanic before where a gauge would become smaller if you used the wrong item on an utterance in the game. There may have been games like that before, but it was the first time I saw it and it was an eye-opener. It was a good, and very nicely made game for the time considering Human’s reputation.
Interviewer: There are really a lot of fans of Mikagura Shōjo Tantei Dan both in and outside the industry.
Terasawa: There really are. I didn’t really have it in mind while working on Danganronpa, but when I looked back, I realized that Mikagura Shōjo Tantei Dan might have been the roots. I have no idea if people in my team even know the game though (laugh).
Eshiro: I’ve been playing mystery games ever since the PC98. I remember that you had to input the commands yourself. Games like Salad no Kuni no Tomato Hime (Princess Tomato in the Salad Kingdom) and Mystery House. Then the hardware developed, and we got the point ’n click style of Myst.
Terasawa: Myst was amazing. I too was really shocked by that game.
Eshiro: I learned about Gyakuten Saiban after I joined Capcom, while I was working on Onimusha 2. It was one of our own titles, so I played with it, but I was surprised at how fun it was. Most of the adventure games until then were about combining items together to solve a puzzle, but the game mechanics of using testimony and evidence to find a contradiction was really new. I was really captivated by these games that weren’t action adventures, but text-type adventures. Otogirisō (‘St. John's Wort’) and Kamaitachi no Yoru (Banshee’s Last Cry) don’t even have characters appear on the screen, but have the players imagine them with the help of the text and backgrounds. That was amazing too.
Takezawa: In the broad sense of the word adventure, I think Biohazard and Onimusha also fit the bill. Adventures like Danganronpa and Gyakuten Saiban are mystery adventures. Well, we call Danganronpa a High Speed Mystery Action game, so we don’t call it an adventure ourselves (laugh).
Eshiro: Well, we also call Gyakuten Saiban a “Court Battle” game (laugh). Ah, but Gyakuten Kenji is called a Mystery Adventure.
Terasawa: But if we talk about genres, I’d say an RPG is also an adventure, and most games are about roleplaying (laugh). What was the reaction of the fans on Gyakuten Kenji?
Eshiro: It was great. At the moment, we have people who love Takumi’s Gyakuten, and people who love Yamazaki’s Gyakuten. You really feel they’re both creators in their own way.
Terasawa: I see. With Danganronpa, we have fans who have been supporting us since the first game, people who became fans thanks to the first group, and fans who came to us through the anime series, so we have about three groups of fans.
Things You Want To Ask Each Other?
Interviewer: Is there something you want to ask each other?
Eshiro: I was surprised when I saw you did two different series in one week as Danganronpa 3 – The End of Kibōgamine Gakuen. When I first it heard, I really thought you were amazing.
Terasawa: There’s nothing amazing about me. It was Kodaka who came up with that structure, but if we’d do this in the normal way, the broadcast period would get too long. When anime producer Higa Yūji heard about this, he said we should then just do it in a concentrated way. He had already been thinking about doing something like that, it appears. But he had held it off because it was hard to do. Now he gave us his idea, so everyone really got excited about it. It was him who proposed this, so we couldn’t be more happy. It was Mr. Ueda of NBC who made the decision and made this a reality.
Eshiro: But usually, this would be very difficult to accomplish, right?
Terasawa: Exactly (laugh). Everyone knew this would be difficult, but it were the people who were going to have it difficult who proposed it, so there was no way stopping them (laugh). In return, I was expecting all kinds of problems to arise, but he was really a helpful producer.
Eshiro: Doing two different storylines in the same world would still be understandable, but it must have been difficult to do storylines set in completely different worlds.
Terasawa: It was an experimental project, so we did have some problems along the way, and I think the staff did feel there were things they now wished they had differently, but considering the challenge they had, I think they did a great job, and I think it was a good ending. I am really grateful to the staff.
Interviewer: Were there things about making an anime that were difficult because it was different from a game?
Terasawa: Danganronpa 3 – The End of Kibōgamine Gakuen had an original story, there was no base medium. Also, it was the ending to the Kibōgamine Gakuen series, so we felt the pressure of that. First we had to make an original story for the anime. With the anime of 1, we had trouble getting the project starting. We wanted to do that much earlier, and we had been moving around before the game was even released. But no company raised their hands for it. ‘It looks interesting, but you have no results yet….’ And that’s natural. Few companies would raise their hands for a title that hadn’t proven itself yet.
Interviewer: It was Lerche that raised its hand, I heard.
Terasawa. Yes. But after that, two more companies also came to us. It’s only natural, but after the games sold, all kinds of makers came with offers. So suddenly, things became easy for us (laugh). But it’s really difficult getting things done if it doesn’t sell. We can only do all kinds of things now, because everyone went for our games. It was Dengeki Online who first raised their hands to do all kinds of projects with us when we worked on the first Danganronpa. That made me really happy.
Eshiro: And you can’t ignore those who first helped you out, right? I understand that.
Interviewer: Mr. Terasawa, do you have something you want to ask Mr. Eshiro?
Terasawa: I was surprised Gyakuten Saiban has been running for fifteen years, but only now its first anime adaptation . Why wasn’t one earlier?
Eshiro: We thought about a late-night anime before, but as a business model, you need to come up with something that compels people to buy the BDs or DVDs. But it was something we couldn’t really do with Gyakuten Saiban. So all the companies told us that it was an interesting work and an alluring IP, but it was difficult finding a target audience for an anime adaptation. We had some offers, but each time it didn’t work out.
Interviewer: The anime did eventually got a very good slot.
Eshiro: Yes. We got a slot on Saturday afternoon, but I think that it wouldn’t have worked in any other slot. Timing and connections all lined up like a miracle, which allowed us to get it in the perfect slot, so I was really grateful for that. Takumi and I were the original work supervisors. I too supervised character designs and the scenario, and was also present with the voice recording. It was really a project that came true because all those people helped us out.
Terasawa: I want to know what the audience is that plays Gyakuten Saiban.
Eshiro: We have many people in their late 20s and thirties. We also have people in their late teens until early twenties, but no remarkable numbers. But I have the feeling that thanks to the anime, the teenage audience has grown a bit.
Terasawa: That’s surprising. I had an image of Gyakuten Saiban that it had a wide range, and that also reached the younger audiences. But if you managed to reach them through the anime, I guess that’s good news.
Eshiro: If the average age of the audience goes up, you’re bound to lose people who stop playing games. So when the age of the fans goes up, an IP shrinks. If younger people play the games and become fans, then you can have one generation replacing the other.
Interviewer: Perhaps you have an older audience because it’s such a long-running series.
Eshiro: That might be so, but we also need to appeal to the younger audience with the series. You have a lot of stylish teenagers now right? The stylish world of Danganronpa appeals to them.
Terasawa: We do keep “stylishness” in mind as we build on Danganronpa. When we worked on the first game, I often said we needed presentation that appealed to the younger audience. But neither I nor the staff are stylish, so it was pretty hard (laugh).
Interviewer: The camera movements and interface are all stylish.
Terasawa: I already commented on that five years ago, but when we first announced the title, a lot of people said it was just a rip-off of Gyakuten Saiban.
Eshiro: But once you play it, you find out it’s completely different.
Terasawa: It’s not strange people would think that based on some screenshots and a little bit of information, so we really did our best to show we were doing something different. But all that effort was for nothing (wry smile).
Eshiro: The theme is mystery, and it’s a game where you investigate and find the truth, so they are alike, but they are really different. Danganronpa has the concept of day and night, and they really live in that world. You communicate with the other characters and build relations and then a case happens. People all get suspicious of each other, and you get sucked in the story like that. Gyakuten Saiban is a game about helping the defendant who is in trouble because of some case, and you look for evidence and work to get a not guilty verdict. So the POV of the users is different.
Interviewer: You might be right there.
Eshiro: When I played the game, I thought the atmosphere resembled that of Killer7, a game our company published. Killer7 is a game I personally really love, with a crazy story and stylish presentation.
Terasawa: Kodaka and main director Sugawara*, they both like Suda Gōichi’s games, like Killer7. So I think you can feel something of that in the game. What makes Danganronpa fundamentally different from other mystery games is that there is no law or judge, so you don’t even have to get proper proof of a crime. You might be wrong, but as long as you can convince the others, it’s all right. What they decided in Danganronpa is what eventually becomes the right interpretation. Because we place importance on the characters participating in the class trials and their psychology, it’s not about finding the truth, but convincing the others, and I think that is what makes this different from other games.
* Sugawara Takayuki. Worked on planning, game design and direction for Danganronpa.
Eshiro: Each character have a hidden side to them you don’t see at first sight, but I think it’s also characteristic that it’s not always a happy side. With Gyakuten Saiban you usually have a grand ending, and each case ends up in a satisfying way for everyone. But Danganronpa is, I don’t know, more like a film, and leaves it up to the players to decide how they feel about everything.
Terasawa: There’s also that, yes. With Gyakuten Saiban, each chapter has a clear ending, and gives the player a nice feeling, but with Danganronpa the case does not end with a chapter, and as you know something else will happen, you never feel relieved. You keep on going with these agitated feelings.
Eshiro: But proceeding with the game with exactly those feelings is what makes it fun. For example, whenever you watch a film or drama, or read a manga, there’s something that sticks around once you finish it, right? Fans like discussing about that, and that helps communities thrive. It’s these talks of fans what gives us creators energy.
Communication Skills For Getting People Together
Eshiro: I went to the second performance of the stage play of Danganronpa. It was amazing. Especially Kanda Sayaka’s performance. I think everyone who saw the play thinks the same, but I can’t wait for Kanda’s performance in New Danganronpa V3 Minna no Koroshiai Shingakki (‘New Danganronpa V3 – A New Semester of Killing Each Other’).
Terasawa: People who went to see the play all say that. But not everyone has seen the play, so there are people on both sides of the matter.
Eshiro: She closely read up on the story and her character and really perfected in her performance. That’s pretty hard to do.
Terasawa: Actually, we first asked her to do Kirigiri Kyōko. But she gave us a return offer, saying she waited to do Enoshima Junko. I think she really liked that character. Oh yeah, after the stage play of Danganronpa, Eshiro here invited me to the stage play of Gyakuten Kenji, but that was really fun too.
Eshiro: The cast members of the stage plays of Gyakuten all really understand the games, so that helps a lot. Even if they didn’t know about them before, they’d all do research once they had been casted in the roles. Naruhodō Ryūichi’s Watanabe Daisuke and Mitsurugi Reiji (Miles Edgeworth)’s Wada Takuma, they all act with great comprehension of their roles. The playwright also asked for supervision from our side, but they really knew the series, so there were very few problems.
Terasawa: The actress of Obachan (Wendy Oldbag), she’s fantastic. It’s really like she stepped out of the game.
Eshiro: That’s Kuge Megumi, she belongs to the Super Eccentric Theater troupe. Whenever Obachan, Yahari (Larry Butz) or Itonokogiri (Dick Gumshoe) arrive, everyone’s eyes are fixed on them. I might be repeating myself, but everyone in the play really loves the original games. Also, I think the secret behind it all are the communication skills, the skills of bringing the whole team together of director Ōzeki Makoto and Saitō Eisaku.
Eshiro: Communications skills are also vital to a producer. Mr. Saitō of your company is like a ball of communication skills. I think that Kojima＊ of our company is kinda like that. How you ask people to do things differs completely depending on whether this is the first time or you have worked together earlier.
* Producer Kojima Shintarō. Works on various titles like the Monster Hunter series. Monster Hunter Double Cross will bえ released in March 2017.
Terasawa: Also, it’s important to know how you use that in your job. Only then does it become meaningful communication. But I have pretty clear-cut interests and dislikes, so I can’t work like that (laugh).
Eshiro: I also have points I like and don’t like. If I don’t think I can get along, I won’t approach them (laugh).
Terasawa: But you can’t really do anything about not having a good connection with someone. Well, you can always have a community with only friends you like. But you do need to do your work well!
Eshiro: Of course.
Deciding What To Do Considering Your Own Style. Looking After A Younger Generation.
Eshiro: I’d like to ask how you nurture the younger generation over at your place?
Terasawa: At the moment, I only say: ‘Look how Saitō does it.’ Personally, I am of the leave-them-be school (laugh). I believe that you can’t nurture new producers, but that they become one on their own.
Eshiro: It’s a difficult manner. You can only have them watch you, and have them think about their own style.
Terasawa: People with different skills and personalities can’t do things in the same manner. Like the communication problem just now, everyone has their own way of thinking and beliefs. I think the only way is to have them watch how you do it, and have them pick out the things they themselves want. Have them pick up the style that fits them, and throw away the stuff that doesn’t. I guess that Eshiro here has come across many kinds of producers in his career?
Eshiro: Yes, at our company.
Terasawa: I’ve been a producer ever since I was with Human, so I came up with my own style. There were not many producers that were useful to me at Human. So I never had the idea of teaching the people below me. I will of course show them how I do it, but there are also parts I never show them.
Terasawa: To be honest, I don’t want them to see the seedier parts of the job. If I’d show them that, they’d lose respect for me as their senior. That’s why Saitō does sometimes fail. Perhaps that means that my way of training them is wrong. That’s why I told him after one of his mistakes that I too had made a similar mistake in the past, and that I was doing these (not really pretty) things secretly so it wouldn’t happen again. That was the first time I thought I was teaching somebody. Oh, and I don’t really work well with people who are waiting to be told something. Saitō does all kinds of things on his own and tries to absorb things that fit his style, so I am sure he becomes a great producer.
Eshiro: Training is really difficult. I too learned the job by watching others, trying to interpret their actions and sometimes get scolded at.
Terasawa: I think you look better after the younger generation than me. You probably scold them to teach them how to do job.
Eshiro: I think rather than just scolding, I’m of the type of really cornering people (laugh).
Terasawa: Hahahaha, the worst possible type (bursts into laughter)
Eshiro: I give them smaller titles first, and if they make mistakes, I’ll point them out and slowly give them bigger titles to work on, and I hope they grow like that.
Terasawa: Ever had any problems?
Eshiro: The worst kinds of problems when something has already grown out into a crisis by the time I get a report. If they had told me earlier, I could have done something, but I can’t do anything if they keep quiet. Mr. Inafune always told me that too.
Terasawa: There’s nothing you can do when it’s too late already.
Is It Possible To Go Beyond Their Imagination?
Interviewer: Gyakuten Saiban is celebrating its 15th birthday, and Danganronpa its fifth. Could you tells us what the secret is to being able to go on like that?
Eshiro: In the end, it’s because we have users who support us. It’s only because we get reactions saying it was fun and that they want more that we can keep on coming up with new things. Looking back, it all happened really fast. Just a while back, we announced Gyakuten Saiban 5 at the tenth anniversary special event, and now we’re at the fifteenth anniversary.
Terasawa: What could it be? I think we made it all the way here because we managed to betray the expectations of the users in a good way, giving them shocking new developments. And we try our best not to let them think it was a waste of effort, or that they lost out on something (laugh). I think we try to approach them in an earnest manner. But I can already people crying I’m wrong.
Eshiro: Yes, I think we try something similar, going beyond what the users might imagine. But doing that is not all good, and sometimes can even turn out negative.
Terasawa: Yes. I do think we have a rough idea of what the users want, and we can of course do all that. But suppose we do that. The moment they think ‘Just like I had expected’, there is little positive to that. The point is betraying those expectations, going beyond what they thought. I think people like our games because we manage to do that.
Eshiro: There’s meaning to both creating things like people expect it to be, or doing something different, of which people still think it was worth the money. It’s the work of the producer finding the balance between that.
Terasawa: Our development team is of the same opinion, but rather than ‘It was fun, precisely what I had expected to be’, we’d rather have ‘It was not like what I had expected, but fun’. That’s the landing spot we’re aiming for, I think.
Eshiro: I see. I think that many creators think like that actually.
Terasawa: There are of course times when we get it wrong. But it is more fun working on a game going for that goal. It feels more meaningful.
Interviewer: Do you perhaps have something to report on the games you are working on now?
Eshiro: This year, we announced Dai Gyakuten Saiban 2 Naruhodō Ryūnosuke no Kakugo (‘The Grand Turnabout Trial 2 – Naruhodō Ryūnosuke’s Resolution’) at Tokyo Game Show. The development team is working hard together to be able to answer everyone’s expectations. Please keep your eyes out for following reports!
Terasawa: Unless we have some major troubles, New Danganronpa V3 should release on January 12th! I’d be pleased if not only fans of the series, but also people who have never played the Danganronpa series will try it out! It has a number in the title, but we have a completely new cast, and you can play it without having played the previous games!
Eshiro: How did the development on New Danganronpa V3 go?
Terasawa: It was hard like always (laugh). This is the first time we have a multi-platform release on both PS4 and PS Vita, so that was quite difficult. But this game has the most content of all games, and we also have side menus prepared, so I am confident people will have a lot to play with. Please look forward to it!
Interviewer: How do you look at the Nintendo Switch and PS VR?
Terasawa: Both companies are probably thinking about what games to release now the Nintendo Switch has been released, I think. Eshiro, what do you think of the Switch?
Eshiro: To me, the most important point will be the price of the hardware. What the target audience is, how far they can reach, the strategy behind the machine. As a gamer, I really look forward to it!
Terasawa: I bought the PS VR on release, but I haven’t even opened the box yet. You can play all of Biohazard 7 on PS VR, right?
Eshiro: You can play all of the main campaign on PS VR. I wanted to experience that fear at home too, so I wanted to buy one too, but I didn’t manage to get one on release.
Terasawa: I think that a lot of games are changing now. But it might take some time for VR to really spread.
Interviewer: A message for the fans, including a note on the future, if you will.
Eshiro: I really think that the Gyakuten series has only continued for 15 years now because of all the people who played the games. We are always really grateful. Starting with the Gyakuten Saiban 15th Anniversary Special Court held on January 22nd, we have all kinds of events for everyone to enjoy in mind, so please continue your support of the Gyakuten series after this too.
Terasawa: V3 will be released in January, but we also have a stage play and more events planned after that. We will work hard so everyone can enjoy the IP Danganronpa even longer, so please continue your support for us. And at the same time, we are also secretly working on new challenges, so please look forward to that.
Interviewer: Let’s have one final photo. Please do the 'Objection!' and 'You’ve Got That Wrong!' poses.
Terasawa: People think that this pose, with my arm stretched, is the ‘You’ve got that wrong!’ pose, but that’s not the right pose. Perhaps I should call it the Enoshima pose. Objection! to that misunderstanding (laugh).
Eshiro: Hahahaha, nice joke. I too thought it was the same as the ‘You’ve got that wrong!’ pose
Terasawa: But there are indeed users who think this is the pose, and it’s easy to understand, so I too use it a lot at events. Sometimes saying ‘Objection!’ Is this really okay as the conclusion of your article? (laugh)
Interviewer: Yes, that’s fine. Thank you for today!
Eshiro: Easygoing people here (laugh).